The outcomes of the 2015 Paris Agreement triggered a number of climate impact assessments, such as for floods and droughts, to focus on future time frames corresponding to the years of reaching specific levels of global warming. Yet, the links between the timing of the warming levels and the corresponding greenhouse gas concentration pathways to reach them remain poorly understood. To address this gap, we compared projected changes of annual mean, extreme high, and extreme low river discharges in Europe at 1.5 °C and 2 °C under Representative Concentration Pathways RCP8.5 and RCP4.5 from an ensemble of regional climate model (RCM) simulations. The statistical significance of the difference between the two scenarios for both warming levels was then evaluated. The results show that in the majority of Europe (>95% of the surface area for the annual mean discharge, >98% for high and low extremes), the changes projected in the two pathways were statistically indistinguishable. These results suggest that in studies of changes at global warming levels, the projections of the two pathways can be merged into a single ensemble without major loss of information. With regard to the uncertainty of the unified ensemble, the findings show that the projected changes of annual mean, extreme high, and extreme low river discharge were statistically significant in large portions of Europe.
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